Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”
What if positive feelings toward the one who offended me do not emerge? What then? Do I give it more time?
Please remember that forgiveness is a process and we do not necessarily reach the highest levels of this process. If you do not develop positive feelings toward the person, but the strongly negative emotions shrink to manageable levels, then you definitely are on the pathway of forgiving. Yes, you can continue the process of forgiving with this person, but please know that you are doing well in your forgiving by reducing resentment.
Giving a gift to the other in forgiveness occurs in our Process Model later in the process. You need first to try to think of the one who hurt you in broader ways than just defining that person by the unjust actions. From there you can practice bearing the pain or standing in the pain so that you do not displace that pain onto the one who hurt you or onto others. Once you begin to feel stronger as you bear the pain, then you can consider giving a gift to the other. This might be a smile or a returned email or even a kind word about the person to others. I recommend giving a gift because this is what the moral virtue of forgiveness is on a deep level: being good to the one who was not good to you.
I would urge you to ask yourself these questions:
Have I been treated unjustly by someone or perhaps by more than one person?
Am I resentful of this treatment against me? Try to give this a number from 1 (very little resentment) to 10 (extreme resentment that could be described as hatred).
If the number of your resentment is in the 5 t o 10 range, you may need some help in reducing that. Thus, you should ask yourself this: What have I been doing to reduce the resentment (if that number is in the 5 to 10 range)?
If what you have tried is not lowering that resentment number, then are you interested in trying forgiving as a way of reducing that resentment?
Your answers can help you determine whether or not to pursue forgiving. It always remains your choice.
Would you please clarify how one forgives a large group such as a government? In other words, do I forgive individuals or the whole group together?
I recommend that you first decide what the injustice is. Who perpetrated this injustice specifically and concretely against you? You can start with these specific people who directly hurt you. Yet, this likely is not enough. I say this because, if this is a governmental dictate that led to hardship for you, then the group as a whole is implicated. Thus, you can forgive the group because groups are comprised of persons and it was those persons who hurt you by their decisions. Of course, it is more abstract to forgive an entire group, but you can do this because: a) groups can act unjustly; b) you still are forgiving persons and this is where forgiveness centers (we do not forgive a tornado, for example); c) you can have resentment toward the entire group of persons; and, d) your forgiving the group can reduce your resentment toward those who were unfair to you.
I wonder if some people are more inclined to forgive than other people. In other words, might some people just have a natural disposition to forgive compared with most of us? I think of Maximilian Kolbe as my example here. He was in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He willingly gave himself up as a substitute for a Jewish man with a family. Fr. Kolbe was calm and did not fight his abusers, which suggests to me that he forgave. Most of us could not do that and so quickly. What do you think?
I doubt that this saint of the Catholic Church only had some kind of natural disposition to forgive. After all, his very life was giving to others as he became a priest. In other words, he had many times in which he engaged in smaller sacrifices for people, which likely gave him much practice in the moral virtues, particularly love and forgiveness. When it then came time for his momentous act of self-sacrifice, which probably included forgiveness, he was ready. Further, theologians in his particular faith would include God’s grace as a large part of why he could love in this way by giving up his life. So, did he have a natural tendency? He might have, but at the same time he had abundant practice in love and forgiveness and he had God’s grace to accomplish heroism.